“Route” is a long poem in free verse consisting of fourteen sections, each structured differently. The title indicates that the poem describes a series of journeys: the narrative of the poet’s own life, the process of creating poetry, travel by car and other modern forms of transportation, and the voyage of humankind itself from the promise of human chromosomes to a fast-approaching apocalypse. Although the poem is written in first person and includes autobiographical material from George Oppen’s life, most of “Route” is a philosophical meditation that considers multiple points of view and the perspective of “we” rather than “I.”
The first section presents a series of ancient, elemental materials (“the beads of the chromosomes,” “sources,” “crude bone,” “the mass of hills,” and “the sun”) that the speaker tries to link to a contemporary moment of individual perception (“Your elbow on a car-edge/ Incognito as summer”). The speaker says that the motive for writing this kind of poetry, which is made up of separate and distinct images, is to “achieve clarity.” The second section describes the importance of this clarity as a “force” that human beings experience as shared rather than “autonomous,” despite the fact that even the objective world is discontinuous and constantly changing like a “house in moonlight.” Next, the speaker develops the idea that the “thing” should not be reduced to “nothing” and that even the act of looking out a window at the world should be done without egotistical...
(The entire section is 639 words.)